Somalis Win Prayer Case At Gold’n Plump

Somalis win prayer case at Gold'n Plump

By Chris Serres
The Star Tribune (Minneapolis),
September 10, 2008

In a landmark settlement that could change the way Muslims are treated in the workplace, St. Cloud-based Gold'n Plump Inc. has agreed to allow Somali workers short prayer breaks and the right to refuse handling pork at its poultry processing facilities.

The federally mediated agreement is among the first in the nation that requires employers to accommodate the Islamic prayer schedule and the belief, held by many strict Muslims, that the Qur'an prohibits the touching and eating of pork products.

'For this group of Americans at this time in our nation's history, this is a very important outcome,' said Joe Snodgrass, a St. Paul attorney who represented workers in the case.

The agreement follows a year-long examination by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and a class-action lawsuit brought in October 2006 on behalf of nine Somali immigrants who worked at Gold'n Plump's poultry processing plants in Cold Spring, Minn., and Arcadia, Wis.

An EEOC attorney said both sides have reached a settlement in principle.

The settlement will include an undisclosed sum of money for some employees; and some workers may receive new offers of employment at Gold'n Plump.

More details of the settlement, including how exactly the prayers will be accommodated, will be disclosed in the next two weeks.

The Work Connection, an employment agency based in St. Paul that hired workers for Gold'n Plump's plants in Cold Spring and Arcadia, was accused in the class-action lawsuit of requiring Muslim applicants for work to sign a 'pork acknowledgement form,' in which they agreed to handle pork products. It was alleged in the complaint that Somali workers who did not sign the document were not hired.